Thursday, May 27, 2010
Link to the Times article:
The Fix: Even Appliances Need a Spring Cleaning
An Article published in House and Garden in May 2004 by Glenn Recchia is one of my favorites.
In the article, Glenn reminds us that even the best appliances need care and will last longer with periodic cleaning. He likens this to the maintenance of your car and notes that many of today's high end kitchen appliances cost more than his car.
Below I have summarized Mr. Recchia Recommendations and they are as follows:
If you own a Sub Zero, the condensers require regular cleanings to prevent overheating. Remove the grill every six months and dust with a gentle tool so as not to damage the aluminum fins. Then, with a soft brush attachment on your vacuum, remove the dust and finish up by cleaning the coils with a refrigerator coil brush.
For a standard refrigerator with typical coils on the back, vacuum these every six months as well.
And finally get down on the floor and look at the toe grille...yuck. Pop that off and vacuum/dust behind it and wash the grille in warm soapy water...this will insure that your appliance is getting enough air circulating around it.
Stove Tops and Range Maintenance:
By wiping up spills and overflows from pots, you will eliminate repairs. Using a fine wire brush typically found in paint stores, you can keep the little holes on gas burners functioning. Glenn recommends that "If spills occur while your are cooking, cover them with salt, both on top of the stove and in the oven, as soon as possible." This makes it easier to wipe off later. Cleaning grates with warm soapy water or in the dish washer is advised on a weekly basis.
Monthly vacuuming of the inside range is also recommended.
Clogging is the biggest issue with dishwashers. I know many claim to clean it all off for you, but it is advised that you get the chucks off. It will prolong the life or the unit. If yours has a filter, check it often at least once a week and clean it removing any debris and brush it clean. It is recommended that you run the washer with a cup of white vinegar. Just throw it into the bottom and run the machine through one wash and rinse cycle and stop. Do not dry.
Stove Hood Maintenance:
The aluminum filters can usually be placed in the dishwasher on the pots-and-pans cycle at least once a month. It is recommended that you shut the power off to the hood first, and then wipe the fan blades behind the filters. If you really cook, you may want to consider calling in a professional to steam clean the the duct work to remove grease.
Ammonia and abrasive cleansers are usually not best for the finishes so I recommend that with all of this advice that you please remember...even though it is not very popular or fun thing to do...read the manual. That is the best way to insure you get the most out of your purchases. An you may even be surprised to learn about a feature you did not know you had.
The article in the New York Times Home Section today explains 'Building Biology' the latest certification you can earn online. As the article states, " 'sick building syndrome' or a sensitivity to chemicals like formaldehyde used in construction" became a diagnoses when people living in new homes or working in new offices began to suffer with illnesses.
The article finishes by calling for legislation for stricter laws on products and technologies.
Buyer Beware and until that legislation day comes...visit one of my favorite sites to verify product content and "greenness"
Greenguard Environmental Institute Product Guide
Friday, May 14, 2010
EPA-The Inside Story: A Guide to Indoor Air Quality
Summary quotes and information from GreenGuard and the EPA--
“The US Environmental Protection Agency, the American Lung Association, the World Health Organization and other public health and environmental organizations view indoor air pollution as one of the greatest risks to Human Health. “
Indoor Air is 2-5 times more polluted than Outdoor Air and in some cases 100 times more polluted, than outdoor air.
Why is this problem?
"People spend 90 percent of their time indoors."
In fact the EPA estimates that
"the average person receives 72 percent of their chemical exposure at home, which means that very place most people consider safest paradoxically exposes them to the greatest amounts of potentially hazardous pollutants."
The EPA and Green Guard a third party test group notes...
There are FOUR contributors to poor indoor air quality
4. Poor Ventilation
1. Chemicals- including off gassing from furnishings, dry cleaning and chemical cleaners as well as in finishes like paint, wall paper, carpet and curtains....
a. Controlling the source…what you or the "cat dragged in" is a problem.
2. Mold- from moisture problems including damp basements, humid laundry rooms and bathrooms…
a. Controlling the moisture with proper ventilation
b. and dehumidifiers
3. Particulates- Airborne particulates can also come from dirt and dust that are tracked in from outdoors…
a. Installing walk-off mats at doorways and cleaning them regularly.
b. Changing air filters regularly
c. Using a vacuum with a Hepa filter are all good strategies to limit these pollutants.
4. Poor Ventilation—
a. With the new standards for air tight construction, it is even more important to have ventilation systems that are designed to bring in fresh air.
b. Most ventilation systems are designed to bring in very little outdoor air and instead re-circulate the indoor air that has already been heated or cooled as an effective way to minimize energy costs; it can have a negative impact on the indoor air quality.
My two cents... You may hear things like open your window from the EPA if you are painting, and the US Green Building's LEED certification for buildings has a highly controversial flushing system that recommends blowing large quantities of air into your building to "flush out" all the toxic off gassing...well, if you really want to get technical, if you live near the water, or in a humid area, the moisture that gets pulled into the room takes you back to #2 Mold issues….And if you have allergies and it is Pollen or Hay fever season you may want to make considerations on a case by case, region by region bases but...
Please do not let this information paralyze you...
The #1 Strategy for controlling IAQ is...
Source Control-- reduce indoor air pollution and limit chemical exposure by not bringing it into your space in the first place.
1. Take off your shoes so you don't track particulates into the home.
2. When you are Buying Products--furnishings, clothing, dry cleaning, detergents and cleaning products, think about the off gassing or VOC’s.
3. Maintain Heating and Air Conditioning Equipment--Change those filters on a regular bases.
To get past the green washing of low and no VOC’s check to see if the product has been given the GREENGUARD Certified for low chemical emissions. Green Guard is a third party testing company that certifies products and their Greeness if you will. Some paints claim to be no VOC, however, the tinting added when you choose the colors are not in some cases only the base is No VOC. GREEGUARD has an amazing online Product Guide and all of these tips to improve IAQ listed on their website. http://www.greenguard.org/quickSearch.aspx
Additionally, Consumer Report Greener Choices Website is also very useful Listing information regarding Products. http://www.greenerchoices.org/home.cfm
Get outside and get some fresh air. Take in deep breaths. You will feel better....just remember to wear your sunscreen :)
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
EPA- Renovate Right: Important Lead Hazard Information for Families, Child Care Providers and Schools
Quotes from the EPA's Renovate Right Pamphlet:
"Federal law requires that individuals receive certain information before renovating six square feet or more of painted surfaces in a room for interior projects or more than twenty square feet of painted surfaces for exterior projects in housing, child care facilities and schools built before 1978." EPA Pamphlet
"Also, beginning April 2010, Federal Law will require contractors that disturb lead-based paint in homes, child care facilities and schools, built before 1978 to be certified and follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination. Therefore beginning in April 2010, ask to see your contractor's certification." EPA Pamphlet
The contractor must provide you with the Renovate Right pamphlet and proof of their certification. EPA Pamphlet
"Do-it-yourself'" projects. If you plan to do renovation work yourself, this pamphlet is a good start, but you will need more information to complete the work safely. Call the National Lead Information Center at 1-800424-LEAD and ask for more information on how to work safely in a home with lead-based paint." EPA Pamphlet
Okay, this is all very serious stuff and I had a few questions about the do-it yourself quote above so I did as it said, I called the above hot line and Kessiah answered. She was very friendly so I read her the quote and I asked about the "more information" that I needed to get from them. She suggested that I visit the http://www.epa.gov/lead website.
When I pressured Kessiah for more information from her, what exactly should I know from the mountains of information on the website she was not sure exactly what I should know so I tried another approach to getting more information...
I explained, "I am a home owner and I want to paint my child's room and the painted trim is already chipping." Kessiah suggested I read the website and call if I had any other questions. There is so much information about lead safe practices and testing and laws, so I pressed Kessiah more, "As a home owner do-it-yourself-er, do I have to comply with the New EPA Law Read EPA's Regulations on Residential Property Renovation at 40 CFR 745.80, Subpart E. ?"
Kessiah answered "no"... we talked some more and reasoned that even though the answer is no
one should for the safety and well being of themselves and those around, and one must comply if anyone is paid to help and that the help must be certified.
My guess is if you read what lead poisoning can do to you, you will think twice about the "do-it-yourself" part if it involves any sanding or scraping.
If you are just changing the color, open the window and follow the EPA's Healthy Indoor Painting Practices.http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/456.pdf choose no VOC paints and have some fun.
Regarding who will be enforcing this new law, I spoke with the Building Department today, and this is considered to be in the Health Departments realm of business. I am sure there will be more to come regarding this issue.
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Oh the Choices!!! There are so many colors to choose from. For a while now, Paint companies have offered us thousands of colors to select from and have been able to color match anything you bring to them.
Traditional paint fans are great, but can be overwhelming. That is why Pottery Barn has partnered with Benjamin Moore. Their catalog phone operators received so many inquiries about "the color on the wall in the catalog on page..." that they make mini seasonal color fans of the selections that work with the products they are selling in the stores. (http://www.benjaminmoore.com/bmpsweb/portals/bmps.portal?_nfpb=true&_windowLabel=sidebarportlet_1_1&sidebarportlet_1_1_actionOverride=%2Fbm%2Fcms%2FContentRenderer%2FselectSideBarArticle&sidebarportlet_1_1isNonSecure=true&sidebarportlet_1_1NodeUUID=%2FBEA+Repository%2F534020&_pageLabel=fh_getinspired)
Martha Stewart has cards for her paints that actually make suggestions for trim and accent colors to use instead of the traditional card with shades of the same color all on one strip leaving you with the task of picking the trim and accent color.
Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams now offer apps for your phone with a "color capture" feature but I am not to convinced that it is as accurate as having a physical sample of the color you like. Just bring that scarf, your grandma's favorite dress, or the piece of wraping paper to the paint store...they will match it.
You may want to consider the psychological effect the color you choose will have on the people that enter the room. There are studies that indicate that people are more apt to be dishonest in dark rooms and a study by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation concluded that the "Physical environment" (including color)"is an important component in the acute care setting that can directly impact patient safety, nursing and medication errors, as well as contribute to staff fatigue, stress and burnout resulting in errors."
Colors are also very cultural...hence the new line of colors by Sherwin Williams called "Hacienda" ( http://haciendahomestyle.com/what-colors-to-use-in-spanish-hacienda-style-decorating/) speaks to the growing number of Hispanics buying their products or that they are trying to lure as consumers.
If you google Color Psychology, you will find David Johnson's research on the question "Do different colors affect your mood?" www.infoplease.com/spot/colors1.html
In short, Mr.'s Johnson's article states that:
"Black is the color of authority and power...
White innocence and purity, but also in the medical field, to imply sterility...
Red stimulates a faster heartbeat and breathing...it is an appetite stimulant...
Pink is more tranquilizing to the point that sports teams sometime paint the locker rooms used by opposing teams bright pink so their opponents will lose energy...
Blue causes the body to produce calming chemicals but can also be cold and depressing." shades matter "dark blue symbolizes loyalty. People are more productive in blue rooms and Studies show weightlifters are able to handle heavier weights in blue gyms...
Green is the most popular decorating color, the easiest on the eye and can improve vision. It is calming and why people waiting to appear on TV sit in the 'green room'.
Yellow is cheerful and considered an optimistic color, however, people lose their temper more often in yellow rooms, and babies will cry more. It speeds metabolism and enhances concentration and calls attention.
Purple the color of royalty...
Brown implies solid and reliable" ...What can brown do for you?..."
Because color is so highly emotional, the best advice I can give you it to go buy a small can in the colors you are considering and try them out...look at the sample area during all times of day and night. What will the lighting in the room be like when you are there most? How does it make you feel? Do you like it? Benjamin Moore allows you to order wet paint samples that are "actual 2 oz containers of your favorite paint colors that cover a 2’ X 2’ surface area with two coats of paint.
or Our large color chips are 18” X 18” color-filled sheets you can move easily throughout your home. "
I personally carried a one inch piece of fabric in my wallet for a very long time because I liked it. When it came time to paint my house...I went to the paint store and asked them to match it. That is now the color of my Front Door.
Still can't decide what color...contact me I am sure I can help you find a color that will make you happy.
Please be mindful if you hire a company to paint a room or building that was built before 1978 you must comply with the new EPA laws for Lead. Renovate Right (pdf) - EPA Lead Hazard Information. If you do it yourself....you would be wise to follow the procedures as well.
For more on Healthy Indoor Painting Practices from the EPA check out this Pamphlet http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/456.pdf